As part of Deaf Awareness Week, I have written this a wee guide if you have a deaf colleague and they are required to attend a video call such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
All deaf people have various levels of hearing loss and communication methods. Some can speak, use sign language or both. Something to bear in mind, deaf people might not get all of the information they need when attending a video call because of the following reasons
Auto-captions don’t exist or work 100 of the time
Captions don’t always work 100%. Some applications will auto captions, and most of the time, they are not accurate due to accents or unclear speech. Auto captions might misinterpret the speaker and this will create confusion for your deaf colleague. On some occassions, the auto-captions could stop working altogether leaving your deaf colleague in the dark.
If you’re addressing a deaf colleague, alone or part of the audience, switch on auto-captions on your side and see how it intreprets your speech. If the auto captions stops working and you see this, you can reiterate it.
Some deaf people suffer from fatigue after watching a video call for 30 mins or so. That’s because we are expending our energy on lip reading our colleagues as well as trying to keep up with auto-captions, that may not work 100% of the time. It gets tiring and hard to lip read after 30 mins. We might miss key points or instructions.
Help your deaf colleague by emailing a summary or pointers of the video call to everyone including your colleague. Please don’t single them out in the email like “Hey John, in case you didn’t catch it, here’s what to do” then CC: in everyone.
Cross talk/Unexpected Change of Subject
During a video call, there might be some cross talk which can create confusion for your deaf colleague. In some cases, the subject of discussion could abrupt change. We can lose the thread, if it’s not clear what subject we are talking now. Please make it clear if the subject has changed, we would like to give our input. If you don’t do this, we can’t give you any input and we will feel excluded from the discussion. We might know something that you don’t.